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Trombonist Bob McChesney

AAJ Staff By

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I admire the legendary guys, Jack Teagarden and J.J. for sure. I was in college when I first heard Bill Watrous who made a huge impact on me.
Many of the most memorable moments in life will often occur under the most unexpected of circumstances. This could be due to the situation being absolutely ordinary (resulting in unanticipated pleasure), utterly intolerable (unlikely but eagerly accepted pleasure), or simply unpredictable (the pleasure of pure, raw surprise).

The true jazz fan revels in being startled and frequently seeks this sensation through deliberately challenging his or her own musical sensibilities (i.e., leaving the proverbial "comfort zone"). Ideally, this will manifest itself in various fashions. For example, a fan of traditional jazz could find listening to modern jazz challenging, trying, but ultimately rewarding. On the other hand, a devotee of free improvisation could encounter similar obstacles and merits in giving mainstream jazz the opportunity of a serious listen.

But a universal pleasure to the true jazz fan, regardless of preferred genre, is "discovering" a hitherto unknown artist. The sheer thrill of hearing and enjoying a new artist for the first time is matched only by the excitement of sharing one's musical discovery with a fellow jazz fan. This can be quite an addictive phenomenon and one that could solely explain why All About Jazz exists.

The Summit Records label out of Arizona has been consistently surprising both writers and readers of All About Jazz over the past year, capably meeting the expectations of those who crave the work of new artists. For example, the releases of Ken and Harry Watters Brothers and Tom Taylor The Crossing were favorites for 1999. Earlier this year Fred Forney Into The Mist and David Friesen Two For The Show were exceptional additions to an already strong catalogue of releases (okay, so David Friesen isn't exactly a "new" artist. The CD is still mighty fine).

But worthy of special mention is the recently released No Laughing Matter by the Bob McChesney Quartet. This is one that has caught more than a few people by surprise. The subtitle of the recording is "Plays Steve Allen" and...well...consists of Mr. McChesney and crew interpreting ten of Mr. Allen's compositions.

The typical reaction for most of those who see this cd for the first time, the cover being a caricature of the composer seated at his piano, is: "Steve Allen? Really? Why?" or "You've gotta be kidding me! Jazz from the guy who wrote 'Seymour Glick is Alive -But Sick'?" (Mr. Allen's satire of "Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well")

The skeptical listener is then very pleased to learn that not only are the compositions wonderful, but that the Bob McChesney Quartet rip, tear, shred, and burn their way through these ten pieces. Particularly impressive is the trombone work of Mr. McChesney, prompting Mr. Allen to say, "Bob McChesney is the Oscar Peterson of the trombone." Small wonder that All About Jazz recently selected this CD as a Publishers Pick of the Week (Feb. 6, 2000) or that composer Lalo Schifrin says "Bob McChesney is a virtuoso and he has the gift to bring us the joy of music at the highest level."

Of No Laughing Matter, AAJ modern jazz editor writes:

..."the Bob McChesney Quartet take Allen under their collective wing so to speak and perform with vigor, passion and fire as if Allen had written these pieces with this band in mind. From the onset it is most apparent that McChesney and co. rise above and beyond the call of duty as they pay dutiful homage to Allen's well-known affinities for sentiment, congenial innocence and memorable melodies...McChesney's impossibly fast, disciplined, clear-toned and concise delivery is utterly mind-boggling...Yet, this is not all about chops as McChesney and his counterparts perform with emotion and great depth...Without a doubt, Bob McChesney is one of the finest trombonists this writer has ever heard as No Laughing Matter is to be taken quite seriously! Highly recommended. 5 stars"

To help celebrate the release of No Laughing Matter, Bob McChesney graciously consented to this interview (his first "in print"), which was conducted via e-mail in March 2000.

Special thanks to Darby Christensen of Summit Records for continued support and enthusiasm.


Trombonist Bob McChesney was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1956, and began studying the trombone at the age of nine. McChesney holds a bachelor's Degree from the State University of New York at Fredonia. In 1979, Bob moved to Los Angeles where he remains, working as a studio musician and in a wide variety of musical situations including film, television, records, jingles and can be heard on the most recent CD recordings by Grammy winner Diana Krall -"When I Look In Your Eyes," Barry Manilow "Tribute to Sinatra," Chicago "Night and Day-Big Band," Natalie Cole, Mel Torme, Joey DeFrancesco, Art Garfunkel, Buddy Greco, Facundo Monty, Matt Catingub, Steve Allen, Adam Sandler, Bill Watrous, George Graham, Rebeka, Atlantic Rap -Tribute to Phil Collins, Louise Baranger, Barbara Morrison, Calabria Foti, Curtis Amy, Carl Saunders, Bobby Milano, Steve Lippia and Anita O'Day.

As a jazz soloist, McChesney is featured on Horace Silver's first album for Sony/Columbia Records "Its Got To Be Funky" and on Bob Florence's Grammy winning CD "Serendipity 18," and Florence's "Earth" and "All the Bells and Whistles." He has performed live with Arturo Sandoval, Nancy Wilson, Kenny G, The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Robb McConnell, Lalo Schifrin, Frank Sinatra, Jr., Rosemary Clooney, Jack Jones, Bill Holman, Jack Sheldon, Frank Capp and Juggernaught, The Woody Herman Band, Supersax, and was recently seen on the Tonight Show.

Some of his film and television credits include "Titan A.E.," "Soldier," "The Siege,""First Wives Club,""Space Jam," "Dracula -Dead and Loving It," "Graceland," "Robin Hood -Men In Tights," "George of the Jungle," "The Durango Kid," "A Will of Their Own," "Rhapsody in Bloom," "Dennis the Menace II," -TVs "Jag," "The Simpsons," "Family Guy," "The King of the Hill," "From Earth to the Moon," "Futurama," "Providence," "Diagnosis Murder," "The Drew Carey Show," "The Gregory Hines Show," "America's Funniest Home Videos," "PBS's Great Performances," "Access Hollywood." and a variety of cartoon shows. McChesney's extensive music computer experience has earned him album credits as computer programmer on recordings such as Patti Austin's "Carry On," "Handel's Messiah -A Soulful Celebration." and the double platinum album "The Songs of West Side Story." -featuring Michael McDonald, James Ingram and Kenny Loggins.

In addition to his work as a performer and studio musician, McChesney has authored the trombone method on doodle tonguing entitled Doodle Studies and Etudes. (Chesapeake Music). Critically acclaimed and endorsed by the great trombonists Carl Fontana, Bill Watrous and Joseph Alessi, McChesney's book and recording is an in-depth analysis of the fast-legato multiple tongue technique. Respected as one of the foremost authorities on doodle tonguing, McChesney has contributed an article to the International Trombone Association Journal on his teaching method for the technique.

Also in demand as a clinician, teacher and guest soloist at schools and universities, McChesney gives masterclasses on trombone technique, jazz improvisation and doodle tonguing.

All About Jazz: Please tell the AAJ readers a little bit about where you were born and raised and what your earliest musical memories are.

Bob McChesney: I was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1956 and raised in a suburb there called Lutherville. By age 15 my family had relocated to Rochester, N.Y. I guess my earliest musical memory was hearing my father's records. He was not a musician but was passionate about the big bands and the big band singers, Sinatra, etc., and played those records all the time. I remember being very young and often falling asleep listening to his records through the floor of my room.


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